Carl Froch/Joe Calzaghe story

11.04.05 - By Cris Neill: Trash talk between boxers is usually one of the least interesting aspects of the fight game, the invective of Muhammad Ali excepted. It's part and parcel of what boxing's about, the whole process of probing and exploiting your opponent's psychological weaknesses..

The recent and escalating war of words between Carl Froch and Joe Calzaghe is interesting, not because they're coming up with any particularly new or interesting ways to abuse each other, but because it's strangely reminiscent of that glorious period in British super middleweight boxing, the late 1980s and early 1990s. It wasn't so much that the primary British boxers of that period were absolute pound-for-pound greats. Nigel Benn, Michael Watson and Chris Eubank were undoubtedly very good fighters, each blessed with different attributes.

Benn, it hardly needs saying, was an exciting and aggressive fighter with an incredible warrior's heart. Eubank was an awkward, evasive counter-puncher, with a granite chin. Watson was thoughtful and introverted, a dedicated athlete and a keen student of the history of boxing. It was these varied styles - and the clashes of personality - that made this division so exciting. The trash that was talked between Benn and Eubank was a promoter's dream, not least because it stemmed from genuine dislike.

As Benn said of Eubank: "I do detest him, I really do. It's no joke. I can't stand him." This dislike was returned with interest by Eubank, who, resplendent with monocle, jodphurs and cane, strutted like a peacock while rubbishing the Dark Destroyer: "In accordance to the way that Benn speaks, he is not educated. Sure, he's educated to a certain extent, but under different circumstances he would be a bouncer on some door in the West End and he'd have three kids from three different women."

You could tell, when these two boxers faced each other across the ring, that it was deeply personal, and that made the fight all the more interesting. Yes, titles, unbeaten records and money can be at stake, but rightly or wrongly, the matter of pride makes a fight a much more interesting affair. Watching the rematch between Benn and Eubank, you can see just how much winning mattered to them.

Fast forward to 2005, and you have the growing needle between Froch and Calzaghe, most of which has been instigated by the younger man. This is to be expected - calling out other fighters is what up and coming boxers do. But Froch does seem to be deliberately steering his career in a direction which will mean he has to face Calzaghe, cannily realising that this is the fight fans want to see.

It was a sign of his eagerness that he offered to fight Calzaghe when Brian Magee withdrew from a bout with the Welsh Champion last month, and claimed Calzaghe had priced himself out of the market. Froch vowed: "I'm going to be in his face constantly and the British public will be clamouring for the fight." Stung, Calzaghe retorted in his column for the South Wales Argus.

"I don't really have a problem with a young fighter using my name to try and drum up a bit of publicity, but at the moment this kid is miles away from being good enough to step into the ring with me," Calzaghe said. "He has only had 14 fights against 14 nobodies. He fights with his chin up and his hands down and I would smash him." There is certainly an element of truth in Calzaghe's assessment of Froch' style.

Froch is an undeniably talented and powerful fighter, but question marks still remain around his defence, which errs on the leaky side. He has a tendency to keep his right hand low, which cost him points in his bouts against Vage Kocharyan, Valery Odin and Charles Adamu.

In particular, the Adamu bout deserves scrutiny. Froch seemed lacklustre that night, and didn't take control of the fight until the later rounds. All fighters have off-days, but it remains to see whether Froch can deliver the performances forecast for him by trainer Rob McCracken, who believes his fighter will become the unified super-middleweight champion of the world.

Froch's unshakeable self-belief has led him to make some pretty outrageous assertions. Any boxer could can come out with statements such as; "There is not one person you can name with more natural ability than me", clearly isn't lacking in self-confidence. This, added to his willingness to take risks and get down to business, makes him an endearing character, and certainly the most charismatic British supermiddleweight to emerge since Benn, Eubank, Watson, Collins et al.

Now all he needs is a big-name domestic clash. Any takers?

Article posted on 11.04.2005

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